UPJ halts Gannon’s three-game win streak

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The Gannon University men’s basketball team has had to overcome first-half deficits all season long.

Wednesday night was no different.

The Knights once again found themselves coming from behind, but this time Gannon’s comeback bid fell short in a 65-57 PSAC loss at Pitt-Johnstown.

Trailing 57-49, Gannon senior Girbran Smith nailed a jumper and then drained a 3-pointer to cut the Pitt-Johnstown lead to three with 1 minute, 14 seconds to play.

The Knights (11-6, 10-2) got no closer as the Mountain Cats (9-6, 6-5) finished a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final 44 seconds to put the win away.

In the opening 13 minutes, fans saw a back-and-forth game with neither team gaining a lead more than four points. Leading 19-17, Pitt-Johnstown rattled off an 11-1 run to grab a 30-18 advantage with 3:03 left to play in the half.

Gannon created a 7-2 run of its own to cut the Mountain Cats’ lead to seven at the intermission.

Senior guard Adam Blazek scored five of his 10 points on consecutive possessions to pull the Knights within two with 15:22 remaining in the second half.

Pitt-Johnstown immediately answered with eight consecutive points to bump its lead back to double digits.

Smith led the Knights in scoring with 18, while knocking down a career-high four 3-pointers. Smith’s play hasn’t gone unnoticed by senior captain Blazek.

“Girbran has been playing aggressively and with high confidence,” Blazek said. “He is a shot maker and has the ability to slash and shoot.”

A’Darius Porter recorded his second double-double of the season with 10 points and pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds.

Blazek jumped into Gannon’s all-time top 10 assists leaders, dishing out his 307th Wednesday.

Wednesday marked the 10th time Gannon has trailed at the half this season, finishing 5-5 in those games.

The Knights remain in sole possession of first place in the PSAC Western Division, with Mercyhurst sitting a half-game back.

Over the Christmas break, Gannon won five of six, including a 66-48 win over rival Edinboro Jan. 10 at the Hammermill Center.

Gannon will return to action Thursday when the Knights take on California University of Pennsylvania at the Hammermill Center. Tipoff if scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Blazek said Cal U has talented big men, much like the Knights, which will showcase a very physical matchup.

“Cal has beat some good teams this year and are in the hunt for the playoffs,” he said. “It will be a high-intensity game.”

DOMINIC SANSONE

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